Ernest H. Shackleton

The Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917

The Diary of Alasdair MacKinnon, A.B.


Presented here is a transcription of the diary kept by Alasdair MacKinnon, A.B., during the Antarctic Relief Expedition of the SY AURORA to McMurdo Sound. The AURORA sailed from Port Chalmers on December 20, 1916 and returned to Wellington, arriving on February 9, 1917. The author's spelling has not been corrected and asterisks have been used to refer the reader to Notes at the end of the transcription. A special "thank you" goes to Cameron MacRae, a family member of MacKinnon, who was kind enough to transcribe and grant permission to release the entire diary, for the first time, to the public via this website.

S.Y. Aurora Antarctic Relief Expt.


Left Port Chalmers warf at 7.40 a.m. on Dec. 20th, anchored at 7.35 tug along side 9.20 Sir Earnest* on board sailed at 9.30 a.m. for Ross Sea.   cleared the Heads a 10:40. Course S 35°E. Calm. Thermomiter 60° sea moderate 1pm Set Watches watches worked till 9 pm

Dec 21 day break. 3 am clear, light swell 8 am start setting sails. 9.30 am We are stearing full and by watch securing gear round decks. 3 pm upper top sail in ship rolling heavy Ther. 54°

Dec 22 daybreak 2.30 am heavy swell course S 40°E. Ther 50° 43 pm bending speniker. 6 pm lower top sail and fore taken in. Cloudy sea moderating. Course S41°E

Dec 23 fore lower and uper top sails set watch shifting coal Saturday afternoon in the Work House 6 pm strong fair wind Course S33°E

Dec 24 2 am daybreak Clear. strong fair wind. Sea rough. Noon ship rolling heavy same conditions.

Dec 25 weather rough showry and cloudy. Christmas day cakes all over the fore castle but none like Murdo's cakes and oatmeal cakes 4 pm had a few words with the mate over stearing. hard case bound south.

Dec 26 look out off. 5.30 am clear. heavy sea strong south wind Course S 26°E. noon Lat 59°35'S lon 172E

Dec 27 4 am sea cold & cloudy. 6.30 am sighted two large Ice Bergs. 8am Bergs abeam flat tops resembling two large paddocks one about 4 miles square 10 am passing another. Noon all Sails in weather very heavy

Dec 28 3 am started snowing continued all day sun dept at 10 pm midnight as clear as at noon no more darkness

Dec 29 4 am passing a hugh Berg. drift Ice all day course S 28°E Calm wind E Ther. 34°

Dec 30th 4 am sea smooth clear and cold Course S30°E 5.30 am entered Antarctic Circle 64°33S occasional Berg and drift Ice. 7 pm entered a sea of pack Ice that makes the old "Aurora" tremble fore and aft. 68°Ss still 600 from the base

Dec 31 Calm and mild zig zag courses through the Ice continues all day meet the first penguings & seals on Ice. Mid night called on Capt. & Sir Earnest taking in New Year. Main Ice getting thiner calm & mild all day.

Jan 2nd the Sun upall night Course westerly making for the land Ice very heavy cold breeze in the afternoon trimming coal.

Jan 3rd 5 am held up by heavy Ice going slow ahead    noon stoped taking ice on board for water    4 pm under way. 6pm held up by heavy pack

Jan 4 held up all day SE snow storm.

Jan 5 got clear at 1 am held up    ---*--6 am for the day weather continued

Jan 6 Wind moderating sighted Mt. Sabine at 7 pm 71°S. Sat noon making very slow progress 2? miles for 24 hrs.

Jan 7 clear & calm Ice breaking up noon 71°46S through a heavy pack

Jan 8 fine clear weather 73°31 S

Jan 9 11.30 am sighted Mt. Terror & Mt. Erebus 100 miles off both on Ross Isle

Jan 10 fine clear morning 7.30 am entered McMurdo Sound towards Cape bird 20 mls from Cape Eavns* Hut 11 am stoped by solid Ice. land Shackleton & two men at Cape Royd his winter quarters, in 1907-09 Expedition returned & reported no signs of party noon sighted 6 men with dog team crossing the Ice from Cape Eavns Shackleton, Mois* and Doctor* leaves ship to meet them arriving back at 11.30 pm took photos etc. reported 3 men dead Capt. Mackintosh, Rev Smith* & Mr. Haywood, while another man in the Hut looking after Gear, etc. 3 pm 6 men leaves for cape Eavns* with dog team, another of four for Cape Royds to bring back specimens all on board 7.45 pm ship steams to the Sound and drifts there all night.

Jan 11 drifted in sound all day 10 pm sets out for butter point west side of sound lands a party at midnight to search for butter point depot.

Jan 12 1 am ship anchored to Ice. 2 am party returned no trace of depot 9 am left anchorage for Cape royds, arriving there 1.45 pm Ice started to break up. 4 pm anchored to the ice for the night

Jan 13 morning very cold air 22° of frost. 1.30 pm Shackleton joice* Jack & wild left for Hut pt, with dog team to erect a cross in memory of the 3 men dead another party went to cape royds for remainder of gear. 7.30 pm Cape Royd party on board. Ice breaking up and broke away from our mooring this being the third ice anchor lost puts to sea and stands off all night.

Jan 14 calm with the wind off the land. noon puts her bow up against the ice and remains so all day cold and stormy snow drift

15 very cold with strong SE snow storm, bow on to the ice. 7 pm started to clear up.

16 th brought a calm day ice breaking up in great batches and carried away to the north we were supposed to sail for home this morningbut through the wind changing to the NW caused the drifting ice to fall back on us and we couldn't stand of with being ashore by noon what was open water a few hrs previous was packed up by miles of ice we were properly jamed up ice all round as far as the eye could see. 1 pm shore party returned but no hope of getting clear

17 morning comes in with fallen snow. wind changes to E drift ice working out of sound 11.30 am took on board anchor and steamed northward for home 6 pm pass belford* Island. weather clear.

18 th 4 am pack iceon horizon all all round seemingly very heavy course is altered and working back along the edge of it but no sign of an opening all day, by 6 pm we were back to belford* Isle. again when there was no way of getting to open sea we put back to the Sound for the night and layed off Gannet Harbour*

19th Clear & chilly stearing north 10 am blocked stearing SE 3.30 pm got through the pack once more going NW. weather fine. 12 pm past franklin Isle.

20th Calm & warm 6 am among light pack 3 pm of Coleman* Island.

21st 2 am Cold wind light pack wind increasing noon sea rough 73°S

22nd Clear ice light    occasional berg    noon ice heavy. 2 pm back to S.

23rd Clear and very cold still going S.    noon 73°46S

24th snowing heavy, 5 pm past Franklin Isle arrived sound midnight

25 Clear entrance to Sound blocked by pack

26th 2 am got clear. full speed Course North. light Breeze

27th dull & calm 73°54S at noon 9 pm snowing wing SE

28th 28th     4 am close to Cape Adare    Wind increasing NW.    noon very strong wind & heavy sea 8 pm living gale ---?---N gale continues did not hold her own since 10 am

29th 1 am weather breaking    drift ice closing round us 4 am making little head way. 8 am heavy pack    noon heavy all round 70°40S

30th 4 am in pack for last 24 hrs    Noon 68°4S

31st    2 am wind increasing pack lighter    noon 66°50S    6 pm recrossed Antarctic Circle heavy swell and cold sleat.

Feb 1 fine weather    wind west passing large Bergs    Noon 63°10S. 2 pm fore sail and lower staisail set    3 pm lower topsail sets 9 pm midnight fore and lower topsails    wind WNW

2nd    3 am staisail in    8 am heavy sea with strong wind ahead    noon 62°5S    Course N40W 6 pm wind takes off and shifts to the south

3rd    4 am calm wind west    noon 60°15S    misty & drisly    3 pm foresail set    8 pm clear and fresh breeze

4th strong SE winds    noon 57°30S    course N55W in communication with shore

5th Drisly SE.     noon 54°26S    heavy wind and sea

6th S gale and nasty sea    Noon 50°50S N.30°W

7th weather continues    noon 47°4S    4pm wind takes off N20°W

8th light breeze    Wind E    noon 44°S

9th    4.30 am sighted the Kackories*    clear wind NW, course N30°W noon abeam Cape Campbell wind now very strong.
5.30 pm inside    ?    6 pm pilot aboard kept her going round in the steam till the tug Kirake came off with the mayor & some ?p as Welcoming Party.   7.30 birthed at wool jetty. jetty crowded with people with hearty cheers for the Aurora and the returned men.    this practly finished the Relief Voyage."


Dec 20: "Earnest" should read Ernest
Jan 6: "cape Eavns" should read Cape Evans
Jan 6: "2?" could be 24 or 27
Jan 10: "Mois" should read Morton Moves
Jan 10: "Doctor" was Dr. F.G. Middleton
Jan 10: "Rev Smith" was Rev. Spencer-Smith
Jan 13: "Joice" should read Joyce
Jan 17: "Belford" should read Beaufort
Jan 18: "Grannet" should read Granite
Jan 20: "Colman" should read Coulman
Feb 9: "Kackories" shoud read Kaikouras
Feb 9: The "Welcoming Party" referred to by the author consisted of prominent citizens of Wellington, led by the Mayor Sir J.P. Luke and Mr. W.H. Herries (acting Minister of Marine).